The music industry is all about sound. Mixing different types of sound and producing ear-pleasing music. Different people have different tastes in music. Some likes slow, soft music, some loud and fast. A lot of people are involved in the production of music. Some people are good with instruments; others have good vocals, and some are blessed with both. But one thing that is common in them is their hearing capacity. A person needs to listen to whatever music he has created so that any editing or changes that may require can be done.
But in history, one famous musician, Ludwig van Beethoven, lost his hearing capacity and still made record-breaking music.
- Ludwig van Beethoven in December 1770, was born into a family of Musicians. There is no surety of his date of birth, but he got baptized on 17 December. He got his name from his grandfather, a successful and popular musician. His father, Johann van Beethoven was also in the same profession and used to sing in the chapel of the Archbishop of Cologne, Bonn. His mother's name was Maria Magdalena Keverich, and she was the daughter of Trier's court chef. Maria and Johann had seven kids together, but only three survived, Ludwig and his two younger brothers, Kaspar Anton Karl, and Nikolaus Johann.
- Johann was not a very good father. He indulged in drinking and was a very abusive person. The relationship between him and his wife was also horrible, which made Maria very depressed. Despite being in an abusive marriage, she was a very lovable mother.
- At a very early age, his inclination toward music was visible in Ludwig. Johann realized his son's talent for music and started giving him music lessons. Ludwig was five years old when his father started his music teaching with keyboard lessons. The teaching was fierce and rigid. Ludwig was so small that he could not reach the keyboard without a foot stand. His father used to stand with him while giving him lessons and beating him whenever he made any mistake. The classes were more like torture for the little boy. Johann was a regular drinker and came home late at night. He often woke Ludwig up, dragged him out of bed, and forced him to practice. He has hired an insomniac pianist, Tobias Pfeiffer, a family friend. Everything was very depressing, but Ludwig showed an extraordinary talent for music instead of all this suffering.
- With the keyboard, Ludwig also learned to play viola, violin, and organ.
- Ludwig sometimes used to escape from his house and went to his friend's home, where his mother, Helene, took care of them. She also observed the disturbance in Ludwig's mind. It was said that she was the first to realize Ludwig had seizures.
- Johann marketed his son as a prodigy. He did this because he was running out of his father's wealth, and Johann wanted to have the same financial success as Wolfgang's father, Leopold Mozart. On 26 March 1778, Beethoven delivered his debut performance for a crowd. Johann lied about his son's age, claiming that Ludwig was only six years old rather than seven.
- Like most geniuses, Ludwig also had difficulties in his school life. It was hard for him to cope with the classes and understand mathematics. Seeing his below-average performance and financial condition, he was withdrawn from school when he was ten.
- After leaving school, Christian Gottlob Neefe proved to be the most significant and influential instructor in Ludwig's journey. He not only taught Ludwig keyboard and composition but also helped him in his first job, which was unpaid, and later, he kept Ludwig as his assistant organist and paid him as well.
- Apart from music, Neefe also made Ludwig familiar with the concepts of enlightenment, the importance of the French revolution, and modern thinkers' philosophies. Beethoven was happy with these conversations; later, he adopted these ideas as a core principle in life.
- Neefe and other teenage friends of Ludwig were Freemasons and part of the Bonn chapter. Ludwig was aware of the teachings, but he never joined the command.
Changes And Responsibilities:
- In 1782 -1783, Ludwig's first composition Three Early Piano Sonatas got published, which showed the sign of a successful future.
- At this time, the youngest son of Empress Maria Theresa, Maximillian Francis, was elected as the new Elector of Bonn. He made further changes and improvements in Bonn like his brother Joseph did in Vienna. His primary focus was art and culture, and he allocated funds to support arts. In this, he realized Ludwig's potential and supported his education by sending him to Vienna, the music capital.
- Ludwig went to Vienna but returned very soon as he got the news of his mother's illness. He hated his father intensely but was very attached to his mother. His mother died at the age of 40 because of tuberculosis.
- After his mother's death, his father completely sank into alcoholism. Young Beethoven took responsibility for his younger brothers. He remained in Bonn for five years, responsibly fulfilling his family obligations.
- He gained the Court's respect during this time and was regarded as Bonn's most crucial musical treasure. Beethoven did not want to face his father and avoid him; he started spending more time at the Breuning property. He took piano classes for girls and introduced himself to Classical literature and German. He also befriended many influential supporters, especially Count Ferdinand von Waldstein, who shared a strong bond, and Ludwig got a lifelong friend in him.
- Ludwig was not very happy with his father's drinking behavior. He was a disgrace to the family and the whole Court of Bonn. To sustain the family, he asked and was given a judicial order in 1789 to get half of his father's wages paid directly to him. The Elector, too, wanted to send Johann to the village away from Bonn. However, his father pleaded with him not to exile him and promised to give half of his salary to Ludwig. Ludwig agreed to him.
- Beethoven wrote his first large-scale composition in the next two years (1790-1792). However, the work was not published at that time. Today, music lovers can find the composition under the work without opus numbers.
- In 1790 when Joseph II died, he was asked to compose a cantata in honor of Joseph II, which became his first commissioned piece. The next sponsored piece of music quickly followed when Leopold II became the next Emperor. These were named WoO87 and WoO88. But they were not performed, and the public was unaware of them until 1880. In 1792 Johann van Beethoven passed away.
Back To Vienna And The Music Journey:
- Haydn, who had recently been released from the Esterhazys' service, yearned to travel to London and gain renown and a reasonable sum of money. Ludwig gets to know him when he stops in Bonn while going to Britain. When Haydn stopped once more on the way back, the Elector and Count Waldstein made plans to make Ludwig pursue his music by sending him to Vienna with Haydn. Haydn agreed to this, and in 1792 Ludwig went to Vienna. After arriving in Vienna, his first purchases were a room to rent, some new clothes, and an entry-level piano. He went with some significant recommendation letters, mainly from Count Waldstein.
- He received financial assistance from the Bonn Elector; on this note, he would study music under Haydn and eventually return to Bonn's Court.
- It was the best time for a musician to be in Vienna. The city was teeming with amateur and professional musicians, and the people loved music. Music was considered a limited resource back then. The only way to hear music was to attend a live concert with a wealthy friend or purchase the score.
- He was a piano virtuoso and surpassed Mozart; Beethoven became a celebrated guest among the Viennese. He could move the audience to tears with his music. That was the era when emotions were popular in the arts. He even participated in piano competitions where competitors had to turn a brief random topic into a lengthy improvisation. Nobody dared to stand against him.
- Being a Haydn student was seen as a tremendous distinction. As a result of Joseph Haydn's fame as a European musician, modern British journals openly suggested a plan to abduct Haydn and transport him to London to grant him the freedom he rightfully deserved. Of course, he was not a prisoner; instead, he served Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy for almost 30 years as a devoted subject.
- Beethoven was either jealous of Haydn or puffed up with pride and became thankless and arrogant. He remarked that he learned nothing from Haydn. In addition, he began taking tuition from Antonio Salieri, the imperial Kapellmeister, and Johann George Albrechtsberger, the organist of St. Stephen Cathedral. In 1795, Haydn made the unexpected decision to move to London as the French had taken over Bonn, and the Elector had fled. Beethoven would not return to Bonn but instead experienced his first absolute independence.
- He performed his piano concerto (no.2) at his first public performance in 1795. He then released the Three Piano Trios, his first composition with an opus number dedicated to Price Lichnowsky. This composition was also his first significant financial achievement, providing enough money to support him for around a year. Over the following three years, he made sporadic musical tours from Berlin to Prague.
Fate's Hammer: Loss of Hearing
- Beethoven had a visitor one day in 1798. He bid goodbye and then sat down to compose on the piano. Later, the door was rapped on by a knock. After being interrupted again, Ludwig became extremely enraged and leaped to the door. He took a stride and fell over, face first, on the floor. His ears began to vibrate right away. Beethoven started to have ear problems on this day and at this hour. His hearing occasionally improved but never fully recovered. He would gradually lose hearing, beginning with the higher notes and ending up deaf by 1814.
- There are many hypotheses on the cause of this ailment, but most are absurd.
- He wrote a letter to his doctor friend Dr. Franz Wegeler on 29 June 1801 about his hearing issues. He mentioned that he was unable to hear high notes. Also, he can listen to the sound of low conversation but cannot differentiate between words. His answer shows that he has a severe sensitivity to sound. He even doubted that he was suffering from hyperacusis.
- There are many hypotheses on the cause of this ailment, but most are absurd.
- After many theories, Beethoven had Paget's illness, which caused aberrant bone regeneration in the skull and resulted in thicker bones. At the time, there was no available treatment for this.
- As his hearing deteriorated, Beethoven began to shun social engagements. He believed it to be a grave disgrace for a musician and thought that if the truth spread, his reputation would suffer. His time as a piano virtuoso was running out. As a pianist, his hearing loss made public performances more and more difficult. There was a disagreement on the date of Beethoven's last version. Some sources place it in 1811 with the Emperor concerto, while others place it in 1814 with the Archduke Trio.
- As it grew more and more challenging to communicate, he introduced a discussion book where people could write questions, and he would speak the answers. Approximately four hundred books have existed, many supposedly later burned by his secretary, Anton Schindler.
Middle Period And Ludwig's Challenges:
The middle period is believed to start with the birth of the Heilgenstadt Testament in 1802. Beethoven wrote letters to his brothers explaining the cause of his social isolation. He mentioned that it was because of his ongoing and deteriorating ear condition. Because of his illness, Ludwig expresses the despair and sorrow that he experienced daily, even contemplating suicide. But in the final statement, he vows to continue living so that he can spread the music that he feels inside for the sake of humanity.
By doing so, he evolves into the Monotheistic figure of music - a person who dedicates his entire life to music to benefit humanity. His step was considered a heroic step.
His third Symphony, the Eroica, is considered the first and most significant milestone in the heroic journey. No other Symphony had ever been performed in the history of the world that was as expansive, time-consuming, and challenging to understand as this one. To fully appreciate its richness, the audience had to hear this piece of music much more often and even study the score. The length of the opening movement alone exceeds that of any Haydn or Mozart Symphony.
Love And Endless Journey:
Ludwig had a very messy love life. He often fell in love with his piano student and dedicated his composition to them. In 1801 Ludwig dedicated one of his compositions, Moonlight sonata, to Countess Giulietta Guicciardi but got no success in love. He again fell in love with another student Josephine Brunsvik but was refused by her family. In 1810 he again dedicated his composition the Fire Elise to Therese Malfatti but also got no luck this time.
A letter was discovered after Beethoven's death which reveals that he had been in love with someone for a very long time. This letter is ten pages with no date, location, or even the recipient's name. Later in 1972, after a lot of detective work, music producer Maynard Solomon published a book in which he identified Antonie Brentano as the beloved.
Controversies, Fatherhood, And Failures:
- Being exposed to enlightenment notions at a young age, Beethoven had mixed feelings about the nobility. On the one hand, he hated the aristocracy and the idea of a social structure founded on birthright and familial obligations. There is this well-known letter he sent in 1808 to Prince Lichnowsky, one of his early supporters and friends, in response to his attempts to coerce and, probably, frighten him into performing in front of his French soldier visitors. After a particularly heated argument, Beethoven stormed out into the rain without ever forgiving him.
- He wrote in the letter, " Prince, what you are, you are through chance and birth; what I am, I am through my labor. There are many Princes, and there will continue to be thousand more, but there is only one Beethoven.". This writing of Beethoven accurately captures his perspective on birthright privileges.
- On the other hand, whether the aristocracy of the day liked it or not, Beethoven was the musician of connoisseurs. These customers supported him financially as well. He performed for them in private, and they offered him many commissions for new works. Prince Lobkowitz, Count Razumovsky, and Archduke Rudolph, the eldest son of Emperor Leopold II, were among these influential sponsors.
- Beethoven, constantly concerned about how he would pay his bills, chose to accept the invitation of Jerome Bonaparte, King of Westphalia, to serve as his Kapellmeister at the Court in Cassel in 1808. When Prince Linsky, Prince Lobkowitz, and Archduke Rudolph learned the news, they asked Ludwig to stay in Vienna in exchange for a yearly payment of 4000 florins.
- Personal tragedies, inflation, and the war with France all combined to undermine this source of money, and no new patrons emerged.
- He became a very intrusive and guarding big brother because he had to fill his father's shoes so soon, care for his brothers, and support the family financially. In addition to their physical health, he also cared about their moral behavior.
- Despite Beethoven's efforts to pay for and bring excellent doctors to care for his sickly brother Kaspar in 1815, Kaspar passed away from tuberculosis. He had a son named Karl. He signed a will on his deathbed under pressure from his brother, granting Beethoven exclusive custody of Karl, who was then nine years old.
- After learning this, Karl's mother pleaded with his husband to amend it, and Kaspar agreed to divide custody. Beethoven would not tolerate it at all. He was adamantly opposed to this union because he believed Johanna was morally unfit to be a wife and mother, referring to her as the "queen of the night".
- After Kasper's passed away, a contentious custody dispute that lasted for five years and had disastrous outcomes for all of them began. Beethoven was initially granted exclusive guardianship of the Landrechte. But when it became evident that Beethoven's name had nothing to do with the German aristocracy's "von", his case was moved to the commoner's civil Court, where he lost.
- Following an appeal, Beethoven was given sole guardianship once more. Johanna's last effort was to appeal to the Emperor directly, but Emperor chose not to get involved.
- In addition to losing his father, Karl was also in the midst of a custody dispute, which left him emotionally unstable. Beethoven prevented the son from seeing his mother, but the youngster frequently defied his orders and ran away from home, sometimes skipping school, to be with her. Karl grew up unhappy despite Beethoven doing all to raise the child in the most effective manner imaginable.
- Karl can only discover one way out of this anguish of being bound by his uncle's oppressive affection. He buys a gun, makes his way to the Rauhenstein ruin, and makes an attempt at death. He misses the first shot and breaks his temple in his second attempt.
- He requested to be taken to his mother when he found back. Beethoven was a total failure as a father. This takes away a lot of things from everyone's life.
- Beethoven's reputation suffered in Vienna as the populace viewed him as a monster and a lunatic. Johanna suffered the loss of a child and endured a clouded reputation her entire life. Karl's life and personality were permanently damaged. And the audience of Vienna lost out on many masterpieces that would have been created since Beethoven went years without writing a single note.
The Last Breath:
- Beethoven began the third and final stage of his artistic life just as legal disputes surrounding Karl started to be resolved. As his output dipped compared to earlier times, a fresh, honed creative impulse began to flow through his hands. His progressively worsening deafness and the resurgence of Bach and Handel's music are the key factors influencing this new approach.
- His limitations concerning the physical world vanished as his hearing loss progressed. He became more concentrated and precise in his work due to losing this sensation.
- He furthered his social life by withdrawing even more. Conversation books were the only means of communication available. He would respond orally to the written-down queries in these. Additionally, he started feeling a little more content with his home because Nanette Streicher could control the beast and care for him despite his disease.
- He started working on significant pieces in 1818, including the Diabelli Variations, the Hammer Klavier Sonata, and the Missa Solemnis. The epic Ninth Symphony was born from a long-held yearning to set Friedrich Schiller's poem, "Ode to Joy," to music. Ferdinand Ries, a former pupil who moved to London and founded the Philharmonic Society of London, sparked interest in Beethoven's compositions.
- Beethoven was conceived in a body that was incompatible with his music. Most women thought he was short, shabby, and ugly. He got smallpox as a child, which left scars on his face. He was experiencing constant discomfort and suffering from his intestines in the form of vomiting and diarrhea. Once, an illness nearly causes him to lose a finger. As a result of his drinking, his diver was almost damaged. Aside from these details, he was frequently afflicted with various illnesses. His final weeks and days were spent in bed and suffering from a terrible disease.
- On 26 March 1827, at the age of 56, Ludwig van Beethoven passed away in his Vienna apartment. The next day Dr. Johann Wagner's autopsy indicated liver illness. Alcoholism and the prevalent Hepatitis A of the 19th century could cause a shrunken liver which causes death.
- On 29 March 1827, the funeral was held, and around 20,000 people showed up there. He was initially laid to rest in Wahring Cemetry, but in 1888, his remains were transferred there, and they are still there.